After splitting a road trip that took them to Pittsburgh and Denver, the Cubs are now home for seven games. That starts with three against the Rays, who are 5-5 on the young season.
Kyle Hendricks has pitched two entirely different games so far, dominating the Brewers before having a rough go of it against the Pirates. As overly simplistic as it sounds, his success may be based solely on the efficacy of his changeup. It’s a great weapon on its own, but he really needs the offspeed pitch to help his sinker play up.
Nick Madrigal leads off playing second, followed by Willson Contreras catching, Frank Schwindel at first, and this week’s NL Player of the Week, Seiya Suzuki, playing right. Jan Gomes is batting fifth as DH, Patrick Wisdom follows at third, with Michael Hermosillo in center, Ian Happ in left, and Nico Hoerner playing short.
Going for the Rays is 24-year-old lefty Shane McClanahan, who is in his second season after making 25 starts last year. He’s got the typical lefty combo of fastball and curve, but we’re not talking about the same kind of craftiness you typically associate with southpaws. McClanahan’s heater sits 97-98 and will touch triple digits, setting up the hook that comes in around 80-81 mph.
The firm slider is an even better weapon, though he isn’t using it as often as the curve in the early going. There’s also a splitter he throws in the upper 80s, meaning he’s got two breaking/offspeed pitches with more velo than his counterpart’s fastball. This should be a real test for the Cubs’ hitterish approach and I think it’s a safe bet that they won’t be collecting 13 knocks for the fourth straight game.
Teams have typically stacked righties against McClanahan, which is actually a little funny because he’s generally pitched to reverse splits. Nothing too significant, mind you, but the 102 left-handed batters he’s faced actually have a .292 average with a .333 OBP against him. However, he’s been lights-out on the road and has seen some poor results when he pitches in Tampa.
This is a game where being patient and stringing hits together might be exactly what the doctor ordered. McClanahan isn’t likely to surrender a bunch of homers, nor are the Cubs likely to hit many, so it could just be a matter of wearing him down. Avoiding the double play will also be big, as the Cubs have hit into an MLB-leading 14 twin killings thus far.
First pitch from Wrigley is at 6:40pm CT on Marquee Sports Network and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 18, 2022